Archaic place name
Location in California
Alsace, California (the United States)
|Elevation||5 m (16 ft)|
Alsace is an archaic place name near the development known as Playa Vista, Los Angeles, California. It lies at an elevation of 16 feet (5 m).
The Alsace Region is one of approximately 472 neighborhoods recognized in Los Angeles County. Although once a large, amorphously defined section of Los Angeles lying between Ballona Creek and what is now Jefferson Boulevard, today the Alsace Region consists of a strip of unincorporated Los Angeles County land located north of Jefferson Boulevard, west of Centinela Avenue, east of Grosvenor Boulevard, and south of the Marina Freeway, California State Route 90.[circular reference] The streets within the Region are one-block sections of Hammack Street, Aneta Street, Lucile Street, Beatrice Street, as well as a very short span of Juniette Street. The Region features one east-west paved alley (parallel to Jefferson) and one north-south paved alley (parallel to Centinela). As is common in certain unincorporated sections of Los Angeles County, the streets in the Alsace Region do not have sidewalks as the County has limited funds available for sidewalk construction. The Alsace Region is served by Los Angeles County first responders, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department located in nearby Marina del Rey.
Ballona Creek, which lies adjacent to the north boundary of the Alsace Region, is integral to the settlement and geography of the Alsace Region. From the time of recorded human contact and continuing through the early Mexican period, the entire Los Angeles Basin, including the Region, was mostly a vast wetland with islands of forested land and dense shrub.[dubious ] The Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers watered the basin with most of the water sinking into the soil before reaching the coast. Periodically, the Los Angeles River would flow hard and fast enough to push its way through the Ballona wetlands and empty into the ocean near what is now Marina del Rey. A great flood in 1815 caused the Los Angeles River to change its course near modern Downtown and flow into the ocean by way of Ballona Creek. The river changed and adopted its current course, which empties near Long Beach, in 1825 when an epic flood from Big Tujunga Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains and possibly earthquakes forced the Los Angeles River to begin emptying into San Pedro Bay (at Long Beach) where the river ends today.
Originally, Ballona Creek was a picturesque natural waterway fed by runoff. The creek collected the water from cienegas and the rains. Its banks were lined with sycamores, willows, tules, and other trees. This natural bounty attracted the earliest known human inhabitants of the Region, the Gabrielino-Tongva Indians, the indigenous people of the Los Angeles region. For some 3,000 years, the Tongva lived in the area encompassing the Ballona Creek floodplain and the Westchester Bluffs. These indigenous peoples left a large burial ground near the Region along the southwest corner of the Ballona Wetlands. The fact that Tongva lived near the Ballona Creek is specifically mentioned in the records of the San Gabriel Mission, which record recruitment of Tongva from a group of settlements named Washna (also referred to in some historical and scholarly sources as Saa’angna) near the mouth of Ballona Creek. Before the Spanish conquest, Washna was probably the most important Native American center for trade between the mainland and Catalina Island.
When Mexico claimed sovereignty over all of Alta California, the Alsace Region was made part of a 13,920-acre (56.3 km2) Mexican land grant confirmed by Alta California Governor Juan Alvarado in 1839 that was collectively known as Rancho La Ballona. The origin and meaning of “Ballona” remain uncertain. Prevalent theories suggest that it was a misspelling. One school of thought thinks the intended name was Ballena, which means whale in Spanish, and that at the edge of Ballona, where the creek empties, one could watch the migration of the whales. Others differ and hold the opinion that the Talamantes ancestors came from Bayona, Spain, so they named it for their early heritage. The Rancho Ballona grant was made to Ygnacio and Augustin Machado and Felipe and Tomas Talamantes, who had already been given a Spanish concession to graze their cattle on this land in 1819.
When California became a state within the United States, the Alsace Region and adjacent Ballona Creek were still known primarily for fishing and duck hunting. There were initial hopes that what is now Marina del Rey could be developed and turned into a working harbor for Los Angeles. In 1887, a developer named M.L. Wicks (working under the auspices of the Santa Fe Railway) commenced efforts to create a commercial harbor for the city of Los Angeles from the estuary and inlets of the village of Playa del Rey. Three years, one wharf-destroying storm, and $300,000 later, Wicks’ Port Ballona Development Company was bankrupt and the ducks and hunters resumed their seasonal pas de deux.
Oil was discovered in the area in 1929 and drilling was conducted on the then-vacant Alsace Region for a period of less than a decade thereafter. After that, the Region and adjacent areas remained otherwise primarily vacant through the 1950s. Two events changed the status of the region and the feasibility of development. The first was that in 1940, Howard Hughes bought 380 acres (150 ha) of the Ballona wetlands south of Jefferson Avenue in southwest Culver City and the Alsace region. A total of 9,600 feet (2,900 m) were available for a runway and an unpaved runway 23/5 was operational in 1943. In 1948, 6,800 feet (2,100 m) were paved with asphalt, extended by 1962 to 8,800 feet (2,700 m).
The second was the creation of the largely artificial Marina Del Rey. In 1949, the Army Corps of Engineers submitted an elaborate $23 million plan for a marina with mooring space for over 8,000 small-craft boats. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed Public Law 83-780, authorizing the study of the creation of the Marina as a federal project. After 7 years of legislative wrangling, Public Law 87-402 renamed the Playa Del Rey Inlet and Harbor as Marina Del Rey, implicitly enshrining the authorization of the project into law.
Pictures of the Hughes Aircraft factory as late as 1952 confirm that that area remained undeveloped as of that date. Shortly thereafter, construction commenced on free-standing single-family residences completed in 1953 and 1954. By 1960, the housing development portion of the Alsace was completed and was shown on the maps as currently configured.
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